Why a hadith?

It is interesting that in a discussion attempting to illustrate that “whereas Hebrew scriptures speak of Amalek—not Arabs or Palestinians per se, leaving room for interpretation—Islamic texts are unambiguously directed at the Jews,” Raymond Ibrahim uses, on the one hand, the main sources of textual authority in Judaism and on the other hand bypasses the highest source of textual authority in the Islamic context — the Qur`an — opting instead for a hadith of less importance and authority.

Here Ibrahim, a translator of al-Qaeda literature, cites

the famous apocalyptic hadith that states that the End Times shall only be ushered in when the Muslims fight and kill the Jews (Sahih Muslim, B40N6985).

In the Sunni hierarchy, the Qur`an is the most authoritative place on any given matter of theology. There are somewhere in the region of thirty hostile references to Jews to be found in the Qur`an, one of the most widely quoted being al-Maida, 82, which reads as follows:

You shall surely find the Jews and polytheist the bitterest enemies of Muslims, and surely you shall find the nearest in friendship to Muslims, those who used to say, “we are Christians.” That is because among them are men of learning and monks and they are not proud.

Yet another is from al-Baqra, 61:

And when you said, “O Moses, we will not remain content with one food, pray then to your Lord, that He bring forth for us of what the earth grows, some vegetables and cucumbers and wheat and lentils and onions,” said, “Do you demand inferior thing in exchange of the superior?” Well get down in Egypt or in any city, there you shall get that which you demanded, and humiliation and poverty were stamped upon them and drew-in the wrath of Allah. This was in lieu of their refusal of the Signs of Allah and slaying the prophets unjustly. This was due to their disobedience and transgression.

This is the basis for many diatribes against the Jews and it is curious that Ibrahim would go to a hadith (which supplementary to the Qur`an and is of little value independently), it is not needed in order to prove his point and does not logically follow the sources he used in referring to Amalek.


5 thoughts on “Why a hadith?

  1. I don’t understand this.

    1) In the bible proper Amalek is a people who are described as a mortal enemy of the Hebrews who the Hebrews are told to exterminate (in events taking place in archeic if not mythical times. I don’t think there’s any refererence to Amalek proper past the time of king Saul.

    The villain of the Scroll of Ester is refered to as Agagi, which may be connected to Amalek.

    In any case, this has nothing to do with with Arabs or Palestinians.

    2) In modern times sometimes fanatic religious Jews will refer to an enemy as amalek. I don’t know how much of a history this practice has in earlier Jewish literature. But even in this case, these people, racist scum that they are, are not saying that the arabs are in fact Amalek or that they should be treated like Amalek was treated by a people living in an increasingly more primitive time.

    3) It is not surprising that Islam, at the time and in the culture it was written, should be hostile toward Jews, as a competeing religion. Let’s face it, 7th century (A.D.) people did not hold to the standards of tolerance or humanism that we believe in today, any more than the people who lived in the 7th century who wrote about amalek did. The difference is that the Jews exist today.

    4) It is no secret that, because of point 3, fanatic Muslims can find in their religious traditions something to draw on in order to promote their present day hostillity toward Jews (whereas Jews, in order to justify hostility toward muslims, can only figuratively compare them to biblical people).

    5) So modern day Muslims and modern day Jews have to deal with fanatics in ttheir own communities as well as in the others. Yes, fantaticism is a greater problem inside Islam, right now, than inside Judaism or Christianity. But the problem essentially the same.

  2. I might be totally wrong, but I was thinking that there are many references to “Arabs” in the Hebrew scriptures under the wording “Ismaelites” (i.e. descendant of Abraham through his other wife). And of course, one could argue that Philistines (from Gaza or from Tyr) are comparable to modern days Palestinians and Lebanese, while Canaanites could be compared to Jordanians. But maybe I misunderstood.

  3. Modern day religious Jews sometimes refer to Arabs as Ismaelites. They believe that they are really decendedant of Ishmael. I don’t know how long this association has existed in Jewish culture. It is obviously not in the Bible.

    Jews don’t associates Palestinians with philistines or Jordanians with Canaanites. I think some Arabs associate themselves with ancient peoples of this region. In Israel the capital of Jordan is called Rabat Amon, which is the ancient name of the capital of the Amonites, who lived there in biblical times. But they don’t think of Jordanians as Amonites. The Jordaninas don’t like that Israelis refer to their capital Amman that way. But I see no reason why Israelis should not use their own language to refer to locations in the region just as arabs do, so long as there is no attempt to pretend that both peoples have a history in the region.

    Jews in medieval times used the names of ancient people as code to refer to contemporary or past empires like Rome, Greece Christians and so forth.

  4. OK, thanks a lot for the precision. I guess there was an appealing symbol for peace loving people in the idea that Jews and Arabs are ultimately (if obviously only symbolically) of a same common ancestor.

  5. Since Jews recognize the symbolic identification of Ishmael and Arabs, and I think the Arabs too, the symbolism could be used for pece rhetoric. But ultimately this is all fluff. What is important is what people want and if they are capable of working things out in a way that takes into consideration what other people want.

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